Yankees

Rays’ Shields Stands Between Yankees And Much-Needed Win

James Shields (credit: J. Meric/Getty Images)

James Shields (credit: J. Meric/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – James Shields has been unbeatable for the Tampa Bay Rays since his season debut. He hasn’t enjoyed the same success against the Yankees.

The Bombers hope their run against Shields continues as the AL East-leading Rays attempt to sweep a two-game set and send New York to a seventh consecutive loss Tuesday night.

Shields is 3-8 with a 4.91 ERA in 15 starts against the Yankees. He is, however, 1-0 while allowing one run with 19 strikeouts in 13 2-3 innings over his last two home games against the division foes.

The Yankees, losers of 10 of 13, are on the brink of their worst slide since April 20-27, 2007.

“This is a tough one,” catcher Russell Martin said. “Good teams know how to get out of it and I think we’re a good team.”

They’re hitting .227 during the current skid and the rotation has compiled a 6.15 ERA.

“This is going to turn around,” manager Joe Girardi said after Monday night’s loss. “We’re going through a really tough stretch. This is where you’re tested as a team, and you’ve got to fight through it.”

Girardi gives the ball to Ivan Nova (3-3, 4.70) hoping he can rebound from perhaps his worst performance of the season.

The right-hander was tagged for eight runs – four earned – and 10 hits with two going for homers in three-plus innings of an 11-5 loss to Kansas City on Thursday. He had allowed four earned runs over his previous four starts.

“I just got to keep my head up, keep working hard,” Nova said.

Nova didn’t fare well in his only meeting with Tampa Bay, surrendering six runs and six hits with three walks in 4 2-3 innings of an 8-7, 10-inning win at Tropicana Field on Sept. 14.

Robinson Cano had two hits Monday, and is batting .310 on the road. The second baseman has a .390 average with three homers against Shields.

Alex Rodriguez is 3 for 26 with one homer, two RBIs and eight strikeouts in his past seven meetings with Tampa Bay. He went 0 for 4 and fanned three times Monday, dropping his average to .242.

Shields (4-1, 2.08 ERA) is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in seven starts – all victories for Tampa Bay (24-17) – since losing 3-1 at home to Baltimore. He’s been even better while winning four of his last five starts, compiling a 1.12 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 40 1-3 innings.

The right-hander was terrific again Thursday, yielding two runs while fanning seven in seven innings of a 7-4 win over Cleveland. He also picked off two runners, giving him five on the season to rank among baseball’s leaders.

“This is something Shieldsy’s done for a long time,” manager Joe Maddon told the team’s official website. “He looks for those moments. He knows he can get an out that way. Probably permitted him to pitch an extra inning (Thursday), just by picking two guys off.”

Tampa Bay has beaten New York in four of the last five at Tropicana Field after erasing a four-run, sixth-inning deficit to win 6-5 Monday. The Rays, who connected for a season-high three homers, improved to 11-12 at home and scored more than five runs there for the first time in 2011, snapping the longest such season-opening stretch since the 1908 Brooklyn Superbas.

“Getting the Superbas off our back is kind of nice,” Maddon said.

Will the Yankees snap their losing streak tonight? Make your prediction in the comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)